When my parents immigrated from Mexico to the United States, the possibilities of settling at one specific location were endless. From Washington to Idaho, and of course, California, my parents were desperate to settle in a location where farm work was available.
They decided to settle in McFarland, a small town north of Bakersfield. My mother’s sister was offering her home. Since housing was affordable, and almond, grape, blueberry, orange, and pistachio fieldwork was accessible to make an income and provide for our family, my parents decided that McFarland was the perfect place to settle.
Growing up, I never realized how the community of McFarland impacted me. I was a naive child. I thought McFarland was just like any other city children grow up in. But now that I am moving on to a completely new phase in life as well as a different environment, I have been able to identify the impact this town has had on me.
One noticeable thing I have always noticed and still do to this day is McFarland is like a fishbowl — very small and enclosed intellectually geographically. It seems nothing very interesting takes place nor is there anything to do. Individuals here are not very open-minded to new perspectives that they have never been exposed to. Maybe it is a cultural thing since the town is predominantly Hispanic.
On a personal level, my extended family, who lives in a big city in Southern California, is nothing but open-minded to new ideas and has endless opportunities. The most fun many teenagers have here is going to McDonald’s and hanging out at the park with their friends.
McFarland, though, will always be a place that represents comfort and growth. I graduated high school with about 95 percent of the kids I graduated kindergarten with. Although this may sound cheesy, it felt almost as if we were one big family. Everyone has known each other since day one.
I look at one of my classmates who is a beautiful young adult, and I cannot help but remember the little girl with two ponytails and purple glasses. It was always very comforting to see people I knew since they were children in my class because if I needed help, I would not hesitate to ask them for help.
This community is one where I feel safe. Crime rates are not too high, gang violence has calmed down recently, and this is the town I will always call my home. Nearly 95 percent of the population is also Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is especially important since knowing that my friends have similar lifestyles to mine as well as similar upbringings give us a fuller and deeper understanding of each other.
Almost every family here is in the lower socioeconomic class, with 32 percent of McFarland’s population living in poverty. The median household income is $35,000, according to the Census Bureau. This is nearly half of the median household income for the United States, which is $62,000. This is another important aspect that brings together the community since we all come from of a place of struggle and hard work rather than a privilege.
Recently, I visited Los Angeles, which is the city I will be relocating to by myself in a few months, and of course, the atmosphere is completely different. It is very chaotic and gives no sense of the peacefulness McFarland did. Although I am very excited to be moving and have no fear of doing so, I will definitely not be as comfortable in L.A. as I am here. But I am grateful I have the opportunity to grow.
The fact that this community is indeed a comfort zone, is definitely bittersweet. While we all need comfort zones to feel at ease, it comes with a huge negative component. In order to grow and expand your mindsets, many comfort zones must be broken, and in this community, not many are due to its small-town limits. Nonetheless, we all need that warm place of comfort.
While I have grown both physically and mentally, I definitely have more of that to do, but I am excited for the challenges as I begin my college career at UCLA.